The Secret Guide to Bologna

Trip Swap: I've written about how I love both the spontaneity and the preparation that go into a great trip. Some things should be based on scrutinous planning, while other things should be left to chance. A few months back, Michael and I came up with the wacky idea of planning a surprise trip for one another. That's right. This weekend, we are sending each other to completely different locations at the same time and traveling solo. I'm currently sitting at Heathrow Airport preparing to board my flight. I had no idea where Michael was sending me until I arrived at the airport. 

Conversely, I spent the past few weeks diligently researching the city I chose for Michael: Bologna! Take a look at some suggestions I compiled to help him get started when he lands. It's up to him how many of my recommendations he follows and how many he disregards. Michael has created a similar guide for me which you can read about here. I can't wait to get back and compare our "blind" recommendations to our actual experiences. You can follow our journey on Instagram with the hashtag #FWtripswap. 

Why Bologna?

What city better represents everything we love about Italian cuisine? Bologna is true foodie heaven. It’s no surprise that one of the city’s nicknames is la grassa, or “the fat one”. One can spend countless hours wandering the cobblestone streets of the Quadrilatero - home to many of the city’s famed open air markets and food stalls.

However, Bologna isn’t just meats, cheeses and pastas. The city has also earned the nickanames la rossa (“the red”) for it’s beautiful red buildings and porticos, as well as la dotta (“the learned”) for being home to the oldest university in the western world.

Making the most of your 48 hours:

Day 1

  • Today is all about one thing: Food! Start your early morning off with a shot of caffeine at Caffé Terzi.

  • Head on over to Piazza Maggiore to soak in the sights of the grand plaza before the crowds start filling in.

  • At 10:00 AM, meet your Taste Bologna guide for the ultimate food tour of the city! Let the local experts show you where to go and what to eat. You will explore the Qualdrilatero - the city’s old market filled to the brim with food stalls and vendors

  • Following your tour (which includes lunch), it’s time to burn off some carbs. Climb the wooden stairs of one of Bologna’s famous towers: Asinelli Tower. 500 steps up, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views of the city (as well as a few less calories).

  • Congrats on making the climb! Why not treat yourself to something sweet? Perhaps a gelato at Cremeria Santo Stefano?

  • Following a late afternoon nap back at Hotel Metropolitan, head back out for why you came here in the first place: bolognese! Visit Pasta Fresca Naldi for some fresh, homemade pasta bolognese. You can either grab a stool at the tiny restaurant or take your food to-go and eat outside in the plaza.

Day 2

  • Start off your day by visiting the imposing San Petronio Basilica in the heart of the city.

  • Are you ready to put your new-found food knowledge to the test? After your morning religious service, dart over to Eataly to pick up some snacks for the day. Maybe some fresh meats and cheeses?

  • After you’ve picked out your lunch, it’s time to head south to visit the beautiful Santuario Madonna di San Luca. Hope you packed something good, because this beautiful sanctuary sits at the top of a hill and reachable via a long, winding series of porticos.

  • Once you’ve reached the summit, pick out a spot to soak in the beautiful views and dig into your Eataly feast. After lunch, descend back down the hill and stop at the Billi Bar for a short break and coffee.

  • After a day and a half of stuffing your face, it’s time to appreciate the other sides of Bologna. Spend the afternoon exploring the Library of the Archiginnasio (including the fascinating Anatomy Theater) as well as 2 wildly different museums: MAMbo and Palazzo Pepoli.

  • To cap off your whirlwind trip, enjoy a nice meal at I Portici - Bologna’s only Michelin starred restaurant. If you’re not in the mood to fine dining, grab a slice of pizza at O Fiore Mio or Berberè.

A few extra resources: